Getting a restful nights sleep is the paramount of importance for maintaining our wellbeing and our circadian rhythm plays a key role in how well we sleep. As our wellbeing and quality of sleep are so intrinsically linked, we wanted to investigate this trending topic and explore what our circadian rhythm is and how and why it impacts our sleep. We also explore whether there anything we can do to enhance this rhythm?
What is a circadian rhythm?
You might be familiar with the term ‘body clock’, this is a simple way to describe our circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is an internal clock that is connected to the brain and has a twenty-four hour time span.
This rhythm runs in the background to carry out essential functions in the body and there are multiple rhythms that send messages to and from your brain to the different areas of the body- think you hunger cycle for example. Arguably, the most important and well-known circadian rhythm is our sleep to wake cycle.
Fundamentally, the circadian rhythm ensures that our bodies' functions and processes are optimised at the relevant times during it’s daily cycle.
So how does our circadian rhythm know how when to send signals to the brain?
Our bodies are incredibly intelligent entities and it is external factors that impact our circadian rhythms and send signals to the brain and promote bodily processes to occur. The most obvious external factor that impacts our sleep-wake circadian rhythm is light. While other cues, like exercise and temperature, can affect the internal clock, light is the most powerful influence on circadian rhythms.
During daylight our circadian rhythm signals our brain to feel awake and alert, in comparison to night time when the darkness causes the rhythm to produce melatonin that provides a signal to the brain to feel sleepy and the continued melatonin production ensures that our bodies stay in rest mode through the night.
However, in modern life there are many factors that contribute to the disruption of our sleep circadian rhythm and can prevent us from achieving a consolidated night’s sleep. These include the use of technology and our working patterns.
For example, if you are an office worker you will spend the majority of your week indoors and with the demands of working life constantly increasing people are spending less and less time outdoors. As a result, our Bodies circadian rhythm can struggle to pick up on the cues that it needs such as the sunlight signalling a need to be alert and awake. Additionally, the use of technology can disrupt our sleep rhythm because the increase exposure to our smartphones, especially at night time, again can confuse the circadian rhythm by the exposure to artificial light in the evenings which can disrupt the melatonin production.
So how can we naturally protect our Circadian rhythm?
Creating and maintaining a sleep routine is a great way to protect our circadian rhythm. Consistency is key within a sleep routine too.
A good way to protect your natural sleep rhythm is to go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday (including weekends). This consistency can aid your circadian rhythm and keep it on track because you are actively helping your body to recognise the same times for sleeping and waking up.
Another way to ensure that your circadian rhythm stays on track is to take part in regular exercise at the same times too. For example exercise can help melatonin production so by adding it into your morning or night time routine your body will produce more melatonin and therefore will have a stronger signal to induce sleep.
Finally, light exposure is key to achieving a consistent circadian rhythm. As mentioned above, if you’re working week means that you struggle to get much light exposure working by a window can help to allow your body to be exposure to some light during the day to signal your circadian rhythm that you need to be awake and alert. Lunchtime walks are another way to ensure that your body gets light exposure at a consistent time everyday. No matter what your working week looks like, by dedicating time to spend outdoors at the weekend you are ensuring that your body has a good level of light exposure. For example but altering your weekend activities to include walks in nature and gardening not only is it good for your fitness levels but for your circadian rhythm too.
Can aromatherapy improve my circadian rhythm?
Aromatherapy has a plethora of benefits but one is that it can help to trigger certain signals in your brain through scent. From example, the Spritz Wellness Sleep Atmosphere Mist Pillow Sprayharnesses the natural goodness of Lavender, Mandarin, Ravensara and Chamomile to calm the body and mind. These natural ingredients are proven to relax the mind and invoke a feeling of calm, which in turn can induce sleep. By using a pillow spray every night consistently it is another way to signal to your circadian rhythm that your body is ready for sleep as your brain will adjust to smelling the same scent overnight before your period of sleep.
Another way in which aromatherapy can help to keep your circadian rhythm on track is to use an Aromatherapy Eye Pillow or Eye Mask. The Spritz Wellness Aromatherapy Eye Pillows and Eye Masksare filled with dried lavender to soothe the body but also block out light by wearing the mask at bedtime and placing the eye pillow over your eyes for a period of meditation before sleep.
The Spritz Wellness Aromatherapy Eye Mask is effective because it will ensure that your light exposure is restricted through the night to signal to your brain that it is time to rest, whilst if you struggle to put your phone down at bedtime by adding a twenty minute meditation using a Spritz Wellness Eye Pillow before bed you are signalling to your brain that it is night time by limiting your light exposure in bed.